Unity Leads to Increase

Author: Pastor Joseph Khabbaz
October 17, 2018


“If you wish to know what a man is, place him in authority” (Yugoslavian Proverb).

Last week I had the unique opportunity to travel to sunny Pasadena, California, with a group of pastors from the Potomac and Texaco Conferences. We were part of the Fuller Youth Institute’s cohort called, Growing Young, where I had the chance to step out of the busyness of regular ministry and meet with colleagues around a common set of priorities. One of the texts we were asked to ponder while at the conference was 1 Corinthians 3:6 where Paul says, "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase."

As we read this verse, we see three distinct characters: Paul, Apollos, and God. Out of these three characters, who is the most important? (This is not intended to be a trick question) As Christians, we would unequivocally say, "God!" And if that were your answer, you would be right. But could it be that what we believe to be true can be diametrically opposed to what is lived-out in personal witnessing efforts, church growth strategies and unity summits? 

In this evangelistic equation, Paul prescribes to us that God is the essential piece in reaching the world. Human efforts have a role but they can never lead to spiritual growth or unity; only God can do that. In a very real sense, spiritual growth and unity begin when God's faithful servants correctly delineate where their authority ends. The great apostle Paul recognized that all his missionary efforts would have been in vain was it not for God giving the increase. Increase in the Kingdom of Heaven was the result of Paul and Apollos working together under God's authority, producing lasting fruit. 

As we seek to reach the world with the everlasting Gospel, it can sometimes feel that we have more responsibility than authority. The term, "Middle Management Dilemma," has been used in business to explain the organizational difficulty leaders face when they have a greater responsibility than authority. Unlike a business organization, the Church (you and I) will never have enough authority to create spiritual growth and Christ-like unity. Paul and Apollos didn't become envious of each other's gifts; rather they worked unitedly to create an environment for growth. Planting and watering are often messy assignments, but that's what we signed up for as disciples of Christ. More authority may create simulated spirituality whereby people have a form of godliness but in the process, we can deny God's power (refer to 2 Timothy 3:5).

"It is not human, but divine power, that works transformation of character. Those who plant and those who water do not cause the growth of the seed; they work under God, as His appointed agencies, co-operating with Him in His work. To the Master Worker belongs the honor and glory that comes with success." (The Acts of the Apostles pg. 274.)

As people in our community seek to know who we are, may they know us not by the authority we attempt to exercise but by the authority we have given to God. Authority we have given to God in our homes, workplaces, school playgrounds and our very own lives will bear witness to God's transforming power. As we water and plant in unity, God will do the humanly impossible - He will give the increase.

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